EXCLUSIVE: Rail debate spills over into mayoral race - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Rail debate spills over into mayoral race

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano (Image: Hawaii News Now) Former Gov. Ben Cayetano (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File) (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle is a big rail supporter and recently sought former Gov. Ben Cayetano's backing for a potential mayoral campaign. 

But during a recent meeting at the Kahala Zippy's restaurant, rail critic Cayetano asked for something in return for his endorsement.

"To make a long story short, I asked him 'Will you support a compromise on rail?' I'm talking about the Middle Street compromise. And he said no and that one day he would like to see rail go to ... Hawaii Kai," said Cayetano.

Cayetano said he was surprised a week later to see Carlisle on Hawaii News Now, blaming him for the rail cost overruns.

"But that's Peter, see. I'm sorry I can't support you for mayor because you don't tell the truth," Cayetano said.

Carlisle said Cayetano's plan makes no sense.

"What would you do walk the rest of the way, bicycle the rest of the way? Stand on your head and walk the rest of the way with your hands," said Carlisle. "There's no way, come purgatory or high water, that's going to get me to say that's a sensible thing to do because it is not."

Cayetano is not the only one advocating that the rail end at Middle Street. Under that plan riders would transfer to a bus which would take them to their final destination.

Faced with the soaring costs, some HART board want to take a closer look at the plan, even if it means returning more than $1.5 billion in federal money.

"Maybe that's worth incurring if that's ultimately going to result in a project ... that the general public can support and be in favor of, rather than ramrodding this 20-mile system through and we can't afford it," said HART board member Terrence Lee.

But Honolulu's mayor is against the plan.

Stopping at Middle Street may reduce construction costs. But the mayor says the reduce ridership means that taxpayers would paying for more of the rail's annual operating costs.

"Think about it, if you end at Aloha Stadium like some have talked or if you end at Middle Street, fewer people will ride it," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

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